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cedented and ill-omened event! and the nation, assembled from all
as ethnarch, for more than nine years, he had been banished into Reduction Gaul, and Judæa was reduced to a Roman province, under a goman pro- vernor (procurator) of the equestrian order, who was subordinale
to the President of Syria. But the first Roman governors, having
sciousness, that it was reduced to a state of foreign servitude. The pub. Throughout the country the publicans, the farmers or collectors of
the tribute to Rome, a burden not less vexatious in ils amount (3)
country had, without any advanlage, suffered all the evils of insurlosurrec- rectionary anarchy. At the period between the death of Herod and
the accession of his sons, adventurers of all classes had taken up
(1) Hist. of the Jews, ij. 132. (2) Hist, of the Jews, ii. 156.
(3) About this period Syria and Judæa peti. tioned for a remission of tribute, which was de
scribed as intolerably oppressive. Tac. Ann. ii. 42.
(4) There were twenty-eight, says Josephus, froin the time of Herod to ihe burning of the temple by Titus Ant, xx. 8.
lained the high priesthood, and predominated in the Sanhedrin; while from the former had sprung up a new faction, in whose tenets the stern sense of national degradation which rankled in the hearts of so many, sound vent and expression.
The sect of Judas the Gaulonite, or as he was called, the Galilean, Judas the may he considered the lineal inheritors of that mingled spirit of national independence and of religious enthusiasm, which had in early days won the glorious triumph of freedom from the Syro-Grecian kings, and had maintained a slern though secret resistance to the later Asmoneans, and to the Idumean dynasty. Just before the death of Herod, it had induced the six thousand Pharisees to refuse the oath of allegiance to the king and to his imperial protector, and had probably been the secret incitement in the other acts of resistance to the royal authority. Judas, the Galilean, openly proclaimed the unlawfulness, the impiety of God's people submitting to a foreign yoke, and thus acknowledging the subordination of the Jewish theocracy to the empire of Rome. The payment of tribule which began to be enforced on the deposition of Archelaus, according to his tenets, was not merely a base renunciation of their liberties, but a sin against their God. To the doctrines of this bold and eloquent man, which had been propagated with dangerous rapidity and success, frequent allusions are found in the Gospels. Though the Galileans, slain by Pilate, may not have been of this sect, yet probably the Roman authorities would look with more than usual jealousy on any appearance of tumult arising in the province, which was the reputed birthplace of Judas; and the constant attempts to implicate Jesus with this party appear in their insidious questions about the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cæsar. The subsequent excesses of the Zealots, who were the doctrinal descendants of Judas, and among whom his own sons assumed a dangerous and fatal preeminence, may show that the jealousy of the rulers was not groundless; and indicate, as will hereafter appear, under what unfavourable impressions with the existing authorities, on account of his
from Galilee, Jesus was about to enter on his public career.
Towards the close of this period of thirty years, though we have John the no evidence to fix a precise date, while Jesus was growing up in the Baptist. ordinary course of nature, in the obscurity of the Galilean town of Nazareth, which lay to the north of Jerusalem, at much the same distance to the south John had arrived at maturity, and suddenly appeared as a public teacher, at first in the desert country in the neighbourhood of Hebron; but speedily removed, no doubt for the facility of administering the characteristic rite, from which he was called the Baptist, at all seasons, and with the utmost publicity and cffect (1). In the southern desert of Judæa the streams are few and (1) Matt. iii. 1-12, Mark, i. 2-8. Lukc, iii. 1-18.
scanly, probably in the summer entirely dried up. The nearest large body of water was the Dead Sea. Besides that the western banks of this great lake are mostly rugged and precipitous, natural feeling, and still more the religious awe of the people, would have shrunk from performing sacred ablutions in those fetid, unwholesome, and accursed waters (1). But the banks of the great nalional stream, the scene of so many miracles, offered many siluations, in every respect admirably calculated for this purpose. The Baptist's usual station was near the place, Bethabara, the ford of the Jordan, which tradition pointed out as that where the waters divided before the ark, that the chosen people might enter into the promised land. Here, though the adjacent region towards Jerusalem is wild and desert, the immediate shores of the river offer spots of great picturesque beauty. The Jordan has a kind of double channel. In its summer course, the shelving banks, to the top of which the waters reach at its period of flood, are covered with acacias and other trees of great luxuriance; and amid the rich vegetation and grateful shade afforded by these scenes, the Italian painters, with no less truth than effect, have delighted to represent the Baptist surrounded by listening multitudes, or persorming the solemn rile of initiation. The teacher himself parlook of the ascetic character of the more solitary of the Essenes, all of whom retired from the lumult and license of the city, some dwelt alone in remote herinilages, and not rarely pretended to a prophetic character. His raiment was of the coarsest texture, of camel's hair; his girdle (an ornament oflen of the greatest richness in Oriental costume, of the finest linen or cotton, and embroidered with silver or gold,) was of untanned leather; his food the locusts (2), and wild honey, of which there is a copious supply both in the open and the wooded regions, in which he had taken up his abode.
No question has been more strenuously debated than the origin of the rite of baplism. The practice of the external washing of the body, as emblematic of the inward purification of the soul, is almost universal. The sacred Ganges cleanses all moral pollution from the Indian; among the Greeks and Romans even the murderer might, it was supposed, wash the blood “clean from his hands (3);” and in many of their religious rites, lustrations or oblations, either in the running stream or in the sea, purified the candidate for divine favour, and made him fit to approach the shrines of the gods. The perpetual similitude and connection between the uncleanness of the body and of the soul, which ran through the
(1) The Aulon, or Valley of the Jordan, is most- well known from all travellers in the East, that ly desert. Διατέμνει την Γεννή σαρ μέσην, it is unnecessary to quote any single authority. έπειτα πολλήν αναμετρούμενος ερημίαν There is a kind of bean, called in that country
the locust bean, which some have endeavoured sis Tay Árpanziton Erior númevxv. Joseph. to make out to have been the food of John. B. T. iii. 10. 7.
(3) Ah nimium faciles, qui tristia crimina cædis (2) That locusts are no uncommon food is so Tolli flumineà posse putatis aquá.
Mosaic law, and had become completely interwoven with the common language and sentiment, the formal enactment of ablutions in many cases, which either required the cleansing of some unhealthy taint, or more than usual purily, must have familiarised the mind with the mysterious effects allributed to such a rile : and of all the Jewish sects, that of the Essenes, to which no doubt popular opipion associated the Baplist, were most frequent and scrupulous in their ceremonial ablutions. It is strongly asserted on the one hand, and denied with equal confidence on the other, that baptism was in general use among the Jews as a distinct and formal rile; and that it was by this ceremony that the Gentile proselytes, who were not yet thought worthy of circumcision, or perhaps refused to submit to it, were imperfectly initiated into the family of Israel (1). Though there does not seem very conclusive evidence in the earlier rabbinical writings to the antiquity, yet there are perpetual allusions to the existence of this rite, at least al a later period; and the argument, that after irreconcilable hostility had been declared belween the lwo religions, the Jews would be little likely to borrow their distinctive ceremony from the Christians, applies with more than ordinary force. Nor, if we may fairly judge from the very rapid and concise narrative of the Evangelists, does the public adminisIration of haptism by John appear to have excited astonishment as a new and unprecedented rite.
For, from every quarler, all ranks and secis crowded to the teaching and to parlake in the mystic ablutions performed by the Baptist. His preach
who attend The stream of the Jordan reflected the wondering mulliludes of ing. every class and character, which thronged around him with that deep interest and high-wrought curiosity, wbich could not fail to be excited, especially at such a crisis, by one who assumed the tone and authority of a divine commission, and seemed, even if he were not hereafter lo break forth in a higher character, to renew in his person the long silent and interrupled race of the ancient prophets. Of all those prophets Elijah was held in the most profound reverence by the descendants of Israel (2). He was the represen!alive of their great race of moral instructors and interprelers of the Divine Will, whose wrilings (though of Elijah nolbing remained) had been admitted to almost equal authority with the law itself, were
(1) Lightfoot, Har:nony of Evang. iii. 38. iv. when the Lord shall deliver Israel, three days 407, etc. Danzius, in Meuschen, Talmudica, etc, before the coming of the Messiah, Elias shall Schnetgen and Wetstein, in loc.
coine, and shall stand on the mountains of Israel (2) Some of the strange notions about Elias mourning and wailing concerning them, and may be found in Lightfoot, Harm, of Evang. iv. saying, How long will ye stay in the dry and 399. Compare Ecclesiast. xlviii. 10, 11. “Elias, wasted land? And his voice shall be heard from who is written of for reprooss in these times, to one end of the world to the other; and after that appease the anger of him that is ready for wrath he shall say unto them, “ Peace cometh to the (or before wrath, a poß úvou, or a pó búpour) world, as it is written (Isaiali
, lii. 7.), How to turn the heart of the father to the son, and to beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of restore the tribes of Jacob. Biessed are they that him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth see thee, and are adorned with love; for we too peace.” Jalkut Schamuni, fol. 53. c 6. Quoted shall live the life.” In the English translation the
in Bertholdt. See other quotations. Schoet geris traditionary allusion is obscured. “ fun that day, Hor. Heb ii. 533, 539. Justin, Dial. cum Tryph.
read in the public synagogues, and with the other sacred books
respect, the veneration, of the populace. Expecta
But that which no doubt drew the whole population in such tion of the crowds to the deserl shores of the Jordan, was the mysterious yet Messiah.
distinct assertion, that the “ kingdom of Heaven was at hand (2)"
that kingdom of which the belief was as universal as of the personal coming of the Messiah ; and as variously coloured by the disposition and temperament of every class and individual, as the character of the sovereign, who was thus to assume dominion. All anticipated the establishment of an earthly sovereignty, but ils approach thrilled the popular bosom with mingled emotions. The very prophecy which announced the previous appearance of Elijah,
great and dreadful day of the Lord,” and, as has been said, according to the current belief, fearful calamities were to precede the glorious days of the Messiah : nor was it lill after a dark
spoke of the 66
(1) Michaelis has very ingeniously observed, was equivalent to the kingdom of the Messiah that these men are described not merely as sol- (the kingdom of God, or of Heaven), Schoetgen, diers (oppariwtas), but as on actual service
Hor. Hebr. p. 1147., which was to commence (otpeete UOPÉvou); and has conjectured that
and endure for ever, when the law was to be they were part of the forces of Herod Antipas, God's cbosen people re-established for eternity.
fully restored, and the immutable theocracy of who was at this time at war, or preparing for war, with Aretas, king of Arabia. Their line of In its higher Christian sense it assumed the sense march would lead them to the ford of the Jordan,
of the moral dominion to be exercised by Christ
over his subjects in this life; that dominion (2) This phrase is discussed by Kuinoel, vol. which is to be coutinued over his faithful in the i. page 73. According to its Jewish meaning, it state of immortal existence beyond the grave.